Despite talking about the need for a longer All-Star break, LeBron James didn’t look like he actually needed one as his performance in the 117-106 win over the Dallas Mavericks was probably his best this season for the Miami Heat.
James finished with 42 points, his highest scoring game since March 2011, looking well rested and angry. The Heat haven’t lost to the Mavs since the NBA finals in 2011, and there seems to be something special driving James and the rest of his teammates when they see Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs, winning six straight against them, completing their third season sweep against them.
James shot 16-of-23 from the field and got into the paint with ease against the bad Mavs defense, while Chris Bosh with 22 points and Chris Andersen with 18 found plenty of easy looks close to the basket, with Miami scoring 56 points in the paint.
Wade himself? He did play 34 minutes but scored only 13 points, and the Heat now hope he’ll be healthy enough to play the same amount of minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder as well. Miami’s defense didn’t completely stop the Mavs, but it was at its best in the fourth quarter with stops and forcing turnovers. The Heat scored 26 points on fast breaks and had 29 assists to their 44 field goals, shooting 57.1% from the field.
He is great and we know he is great. He scored a bundle of points on us last time and he was even better tonight. When we turned it over, he was gone. After his fourth open-court dunk, the basket started feeling a little bit bigger for him. He just started taking pull-up 3s.
James was 4-of-8 from beyond the arc and Miami shot 38.5% as a team from long range. James scored 12 points in the fourth quarter and on a per 40-minute basis, LeBron is the highest fourth-quarter scorer this season, shooting 57.1% from the field in the final period, averaging 36.8 points per 40 minutes.
The Mavs were able to stay in the game while they weren’t turning the ball over, but they didn’t get any kind of special performance from Dirk Nowizki or Monta Ellis in the fourth quarter. Nowitzki scored 22 points and Dallas enjoyed a huge night on the offensive boards with 21, but shot only 40% from the field, and their bad offense combined with no defense eventually meant this wasn’t a game they would be able to hang on in all the way.
James has now scored 35 points in three consecutive games, the first time he’s done it with the Heat, and his career best is four straight games of 35 or more during his last season with the Cavs. He has only had one game in his career in which he took at least 23 shots from the field and shot better than he did against the Mavs, with a 19-of-26 performance against the Celtics in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals.
This was the kind of game Miami needed to boost itself headed into their important game against the Thunder. The defense and protecting the glass issues still exist, but they also had the ball hawking defense and great ball movement in the open floor this team’s success relies on, not to mention James hitting his fifth gear to kick off the most important stretch of the regular season.